Michael Dunphy has been playing it down. He doesn't want to talk about it. That makes sense. He doesn't want to jinx it.
He's now ranked No. 14 on the World Qualification Series (WQS). And that means that as we head into the fast-paced home stretch of the 2014 ASP season, he will be in the mix for a slot on the 2015 World Tour. But whether he wants to or not, people are going to start talking about the 24-year-old regular-foot because he just won the Vans Pro at the Coastal Edge East Coast Surfing Championships (ECSC) in his hometown.
How significant is this?
Pretty significant. It has now been eight years since any new East Coasters qualified for the ASP World Tour. And to be honest, aside from some flirting around the cut-off, only Florida's Evan Geiselman has been even close. Plus, Dunphy is from Virginia Beach, which would be the least likely place for a kid to qualify from, had Wes Laine not already done it. And that was only 32 years ago.
Ironically, Laine, a surfing (and now fishing) legend by East Coast standards, was providing webcast commentary at the event. He was also the last local to win the ECSC, in 1981.
Dunphy is not a household name. This was his first ASP win. Despite a host of non-sanctioned pro victories and riding for Hurley, his name doesn't carry the same cache as it would if he were from someplace "more Orange." But that might change.
The surf at the start of the event was so stereotypically East Coast summer, it wasn't even funny. VB hasn't had a bad summer, but the event kicked off between tropical swells and with nary a bump on the horizon. After battling through days of one-foot "connect the dot" conditions, First Street jetty finally got some legit three-foot northeast wind swell on Sunday for the finals. Kaito Kino of Hawaii, won the Pro Junior, also his first ASP win.
And Dunphy's victory wasn't a fluke. He took first in every single round, putting up an 8.67 in the quarters and downing the likes of Nate Yeomens, Cooper Chapman, Nathaniel Curran, and 2013 champ, Pat Gudauskas en route to the finals. There, he faced Luke Davis, who is enjoying a revival of late, Japan's Hiroto Arai and Brazilian Deivid Silva. But in shifty, windy Virginia Beach peaks, Dunphy was untouchable, posting an 8.93 and an 8.57, two of the top ten scores of the entire event. He even found a little cover up section -- in VB, in the summer!
And he wasn't chaired to the beach by a few WQS tour mates, but the very homeboys he grew up with. The win earned him 1,000 points toward his 2014 WQS total. Dunphy noted that while the surf was tiny for the start of the event, it was legitimately fun for Sunday's finale. But it creates quite a contrast when the World Tour soldiers are battling with Teahupoo's 18-foot man-eaters.
Behind the scenes, there was something more personal going on with Dunphy. He was able to take something negative in his life and turn it into a positive.
"About a year ago, I had a friend die. We grew up surfing First St. together. It hit me right away, but I never really dealt with it. This week, I was surfing with his dad and remembering him. I kind of connected with it, so there was that going on with that."
Dunphy will surf the Outer Banks Pro next week, which is an ASP 2-star. After that, he has the Sata Airlines Azores Pro, an ASP Prime event and then the Belmar Pro, a 1-star in New Jersey.
"I need to make the later rounds of one of the Primes -- the Azores, Portugal, Brazil, or the event at Haleiwa," he explained, "Then this result would be my fourth or fifth highest. I just need that one big one."